I’ve discussed before how the Oakland Airport Connector will waste half a billion dollars to serve only 1,000 new riders, but I thought I’d float a more practical alternative to using the money: a new station in the San Antonio district in East Oakland. Bart stretches nearly three miles between the Lake Merritt and Fruitvale Stations without a stop, passing one of the densest districts in the East Bay–approximately 30,000 people in just a little over one square mile. The Bart Station Profile Survey shows this gap beautifully:
The triangle-looking hole in Bart service stretches from 14th Ave to Fruitvale Ave, suggesting that most people who live in the area either drive or take AC Transit to get around. Yet, Bart passes over a lot in this stretch, particularly serving the 14th Ave and 23rd Ave business districts and The station could go at either 14th Ave, an at-grade Bart line adjacent to an overbuilt road intersection with plenty of room for redesign:
Or 23rd Ave, an elevated Bart line along wide but underused boulevard in an industrial area:
Even though the biggest hole in Bart ridership is along 23rd Ave, 14th Ave station would probably attract more riders, being on a larger corridor with connections to Highland Hospital and Glenview. It is also likely a more practical option because there is more space around the station (even for some parking?). But how many riders could a 14th Ave station attract? Let’s take a look at some similar stations:
|Station||Daily Ridership (FY 08)||Estimated Population Density (persons/sq. mile)|
|16th St. Mission||10,907||28,035|
|24th St. Mission||12,500||45,911|
I intentionally selected stations that, like San Antonio, are locally-based and would have a low level of outside commuters. I selected the adjacent census tracts that make up no more than two square miles surrounding the given stations, and tried to be as consistent as possible, but granted, this is a subjective and not scientific method. It is also important to note that Fruitvale attracts a number of commuters from Alameda, so its ridership numbers are a little inflated. Nevertheless, this analysis yields significant results.
The San Antionio district is nearly as dense as the 16th St. and Mission station in San Francisco, and more dense than the areas surrounding the Ashby, MacArthur, Fruitvale, Rockridge, and Glen Park stations. Similar East Bay stations attract a minimum of 4,500 daily riders and a maximum of 7,500 daily riders. I would argue that, because of the higher density of the district and the potential to reach even farther into Glenview and even Montclair, a San Antionio station would attract between 6,000 and 8,000 daily riders if it were built today, and potentially even more after transit-oriented development and growth in the area (keep in mind, this is my realistic estimate, and a [fantastical] BART estimate would probably be in the 15,000 range by 2020 or something like that). For an infill station to immediately be in the top 15 stations out of the 43 in the Bart system, that’s pretty damn good.
So how much would all of this cost? Well, the West-Dublin-Pleasanton station currently under construction costs 80 million dollars, which includes a 1200 space parking garage (probably 20-35 million in itself). The optional Irvington infill station on the Warm Springs extension would cost about 95 million if built. I’d say 100 million is a reasonable conservative estimate on the cost of a Bart station, but it could be as low as 70 million since parking structures wouldn’t be necessary. There is also the option for an additional Amtrak station that would probably cost another 15 million or so (a brand new station in Hercules will be constructed for 45 million, but a simple add-on shouldn’t be nearly that much). An intermodal station could serve as an important transfer point to Bart while adding more riders as Capitol Corridor expands in the future.
Therefore, for 70-115 million dollars, Bart could immidiately add another 6,000-8,000 riders (and potentially 10,000 by 2020) and provide service to a dense and extremely underserved district in Oakland. This station would be one of the easiest ways for Bart to reinvest in the urban core and truly promote smart growth, and best of all, it would be just 1/5-1/7 the cost while attracting 6-8 times the initial riders. The Bart Board needs to face reality: if they’re truly trying to serve East Oakland (as they claimed in the OAC debate) and control sprawl, then fill the three mile gap in San Antonio with a station.
1. I talked to my friend Tom Radulovich, who is on the Bart Board of Directors, and he said that the idea for a station at 8th Ave had been floated in the 1990s with the preliminary estuary planning, but nothing ever became of it. I added it as a third alternative on the map above. It has many advantages, including easier access to the Oak to 9th development, and tons of room for TOD (since the Bart and UP facilities there are more or less unnecessary and can be moved). However, it is currently an industrial area without a whole lot of room for infill and redevelopment, and it’s farther away from the 12th St. and International business corridors. It also does not have as direct of transit access as the 14th Ave (or 23rd Ave) corridors, and is closer to the Lake Merrit station, so it really would serve new development more than the existing San Antionio area.
2. Tom also said he requested that studies be completed to analyze the impacts of infill stations at Albany, San Antionio, and 30th & Mission, but nothing ever came of them (bureaucracy at its finest).
3. I was in the area today, so I made a quick stop to check out the 14th Ave Burger King area again. The immediate area is primarily industrial, and I had forgotten how poor the pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure is. Currently, there really isn’t enough of a neighborhood to support a station (compared to Fruitvale) and most users would likely travel to the station by bus. Still, there’s a lot of potential for a feeder BRT line along 14th Ave., and I think some traffic calming and infill development could strengthen the 14th & International area.
So the question is, how would you bring much-needed Bart service to an area that has no infrastructure or neighborhood framework to currently support it? The good news is that at least there’s some sort of neighborhood (and still a very high density to support a station). After all, Bart has built stations and TOD in much worse locations with much lower ridership.